MOVIE: Canopy (2013)

canopyThis Australian film, one of about 12 movies I’m going to in the next 3 weeks during the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), wins my award for the year’s Most Silent Not-a-Silent-Movie movie.  There’s virtually no dialogue — instead, the soundtrack primarily consists of the roar of planes and pops of guns, the buzz and hum of the jungles of Singapore, and the periodic sounds of someone’s breath (or lack thereof, depending on the scene).

Set during World War II in Singapore, the movie opens with a young Australian pilot coming to after ejecting from his plane. He cuts himself loose from the tree he woke up dangling in and takes a slow, careful look at his surroundings: dense walls of green closed in on five sides of him, with a floor of thick mud below.  The sky is visible only in tiny glimpses here and there, sometimes only in a puddle and then gone again as soon as he looks up and the trees shift together (hence the title Canopy) — and in it, mostly all he sees are more planes zooming, firing, exploding, as the war continues on without him.

After a few hours stumbling around in the jungle, the pilot hears the sound of a troop of Japanese soldiers nearby and begins to run, careening full-force into another man doing the same thing (and they weren’t even texting!).  Stunned, they both leap up ready to fight, realize they’re actually allies (he’s Australian, he’s Chinese), and immediately dive back into the tall grass, just as the Japanese soldiers they’d heard in the distance come walking through the glen.

The soldiers pass, the men rise, and so begins a very quiet, very short, very intense friendship: two men, neither of whom speaks the other’s language, in the most terrifying situation of their lives, together.

This relatively short film (about 85 minutes) goes by quickly, spattered with brief moments of sadness, fear, yearning, or loss, sprinkled atop longer moments of disorientation and dream.  Neither man talks to the other — not only because they can’t communicate in the first place so what’s the point, but also because there is rarely a moment they can be sure they won’t be overheard by the Japanese soldiers who have infiltrated the jungle, are virtually invisible behind those thick walls of green, and are not known for their kindness to their enemies.

Though you might wonder how a story like this could be told when nobody says a word (a lady behind me in the theater certainly seemed annoyed by that), it’s amazing how powerful this film truly is in moments.  It’s not a perfect movie — in a few places, I’d go so far as to call it a mess, in fact.  But it’s an interesting one about the power of silence and noise, the bond of fear, and the life-long, ever-resonating nature of trauma and loss.

Recommended to fans of the war film genre.  Keep an eye out for it!

[Official web site | Trailer]

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One Response to “MOVIE: Canopy (2013)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    Ooh. Definitely looks good. Thanks!

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